Representatives of the NFL and the players’ union met Monday in New York, with the league potentially nearing an announcement about penalties for those players most heavily involved in the New Orleans Saints’ bounty scandal.
Several people familiar with the meeting confirmed that it took place but declined to specify which topics were discussed. Those people spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the deliberations, with the bounty penalties pending.
According to the NFL Network, the union participants in the meeting included DeMaurice Smith, the executive director of the NFL Players Association, as well as Saints quarterback Drew Brees and former Saints linebacker Scott Fujita, both members of the union’s ruling executive committee.
It is not clear when the penalties will be announced. That timing apparently could depend, in part, on the outcome of the interaction Monday between the league and union.
The league and union declined to comment on the meeting or the pending bounty penalties against players.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell already has suspended Saints Coach Sean Payton for an entire season, General Manager Mickey Loomis for a half-season, assistant head coach Joe Vitt for six games and former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams indefinitely for their roles in the bounty scheme, in which players received cash payments the last three seasons for hits that injured opponents.
The Saints were fined $500,000 and stripped of a pair of second-round draft choices.
People familiar with the case have said that those players most heavily involved in the bounties also face long suspensions, perhaps as lengthy as a half-season or longer in some instances. A previously announced investigation by the league concluded that 22 to 27 players were involved in the bounties and the bounty system was primarily player-funded.
Also Monday, the union issued a written statement confirming that it was aware of the existence of an audio tape in which Williams talked about injuring San Francisco 49ers players before that tape was released to the public. The tape was made before the Saints played the 49ers in a playoff game last season. The union’s knowledge of it before it was released publicly was first reported by ESPN.
“The NFLPA was aware of the existence of the Gregg Williams audio prior to its release,” the union’s statement said. “We learned of the tape as part of our effort to obtain any and all information related to an alleged pay-to-injure scheme. We had no control of the content and did not make a determination on the method of its release. To date, the NFL has not provided the NFLPA with detailed evidence of the existence of such a program.”